Monday, October 20, 2014

Transport is under way

The advert read "Remodeled School bus". Thus, a few days ago, I went to see it and it's a darling little bus. The tyres as mentioned before are shot and there was an oil leak but this is a bus that I can do something with. I'll never be able to stand up straight inside as the ceilings are somewhat low. Having said that how often does one stand up at home anyway?

The latest news is that the tyres might be being replaced with part-worn tyres by the owner and the oil leak might be fixed too. As I told the owner - if the oil leak is fixed and the tyres replaced, he has a sale. That's pretty much of an incentive!

The windows have to be blocked and some security added as well as the ludicrous shelf removed from the back. A trailer hitch would do well also. It has promise. I am eager to see the result.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


I've spent quite a while thinking of alternative ways of doing things for the bus. In no particular order, here are some of the ideas.

  • Windows - these could be removed and sheets of steel riveted over the openings. The problem is that waterproof rivets (which the bus manufacturers use) seem to be desperately hard to find in the shops. Perhaps it's a case of being forced to order from China. Another alternative would be just to hang a bamboo curtain over the windows (after making sure that they could not be opened from the outside by any wannabe low-lifes).
  • The mattresses - these quite simply need to be burnt. The mattress side of the bus needs to be turned into storage boxes where I can store my stuff. That includes a tall closet so I can hang my long clothes.
  • The fridge - that can stay but it needs an inverter to be installed. Fortunately there seems plenty 120v wiring installed.
  • The hot water heater - that just needs to go. Far better to have an instant hot water unit and a pump to pump water from a holding tank. That makes far more use of the limited space.
  • The bath - that needs to go. There's precious little point in having a bath as it uses way too much water. Far better to replace the bath with a shower unit. 
  • The sinks/handbasins - some of those need to go. In fact, probably all of them. They're way too big for what's needed.
  • The cupboards - they seem just to be way too deep. Too hard to find things in them. For some unknown reason cupboards all seem to be 18 inches deep which is at least twice as deep as most people need. Things simply get lost in such deep cupboards. In fact, I'd be in favor of 12 inch deep cupboards. Incidentally, the cupboards don't have locks. The doors are secured by bungee cords when the bus is moving. Needless to say, the contents will be jogging about the place too.
  • The toilet - that's very simple - there isn't one. It's a case of installing one. For the moment, perhaps a porta-potty will be best.
  • The rear shelf - that has metal fatigue and needs to be removed. At the same time as that's removed, the front tow hook will also be removed. No need for it. 
  • A fellow a few days ago reckoned the governor could be removed but pointed out that as the busses are already low-enough geared, there's little point as the engine will just scream and be more likely to burn out. 55 is ample for most needs and nobody expects a schoolbus to go fast.
  • Color scheme - I've been running color schemes over in mind and have been thinking largely about grey. It depends I suspect on what the cheapest color of suitable paint is available at the time of painting. The paint, of course, will be applied with a roller rather than with a brush or a spray can for ease and simplicity. Nobody will really care that there are ripples in the paint of a 20 year old bus!
Without a doubt, there's a lot that needs to be done. A lot of it once the sanitation is sorted out, is something that can be done while living in the bus. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Things progress

The current owner of the bus that I saw has it in the garage for the oil leak to be fixed. I asked him is his mechanic could put part-used tyres on it to replace the bad tyres. That could be an interesting way to go.

There's still a ton of work to be done on the bus. I've had several ideas. The first is to rip out all the stuff on the driver side of the bus, to coat the windows with a semi-opaque coating in order that nobody can see in but I can see out and to hang some bamboo blinds over the windows. The next thing would be to build the driver side into something usable and to leave the passenger side pretty much as it is.

Another idea would be to redo the entire of the inside of the bus from scratch, pulling all the old stuff out and redoing it as I would desire.

Whichever route I take, one thing is absolutely certain. The shelf at the back that has metal fatigue must meet an angle-grinder and be removed.
If you zoom in closely just where the shelf meets the bus, there's a stress fracture in the angle section. Aside from that, this protrusion makes cornering much more hazardous.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Big Bus (well, almost)

Today I had the pleasure of driving 90 minutes to see a fellow about a bus. It was advertised on Craigslist for $4200 and was in really good underlying condition. There was an oil leak that I spotted that needed fixing. The engine sounded good as did the transmission. The drive mounts and joints all seemed pretty solid as did the chassis.

There were minor issues such as a dead headlamp and a broken wiper motor. There were fans but no air conditioning. The interior needed complete remodelling and there was some kind of cargo shelf that had been welded to the rear that needed to be removed and a couple of other external oddities such as the remains of an awning and a flip down table.

Navigating to the destination proved interesting because Google navigated us off I20 and off I520 for no apparently worthwhile reason, causing an extra 30 minutes journey time.

There's a lot of work needing to be done but the basic vehicle is excellent. The big worry is that all four back tyres need replacement. Most are worn down on one side and a couple have dry rot. The front tyres look good.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Saturday's the day!

I get to look at the old school bus that I saw on Craigslist on Saturday. The tag has expired but I'm going to have to get a new tag anyway - if I buy the bus. Apparently it's 30 feet long. It has been done out inside as a hunting cabin so there's a load of work to do to convert it to a home but this is not insurmountable. Working all day at weekends, I think I can get the majority of it done by Christmas. Maybe have it habitable sometime shortly thereafter.

The plan is to have the passenger compartment separated into 4 sections. There will be bedroom/closet, toilet/shower/bicycle storage, kitchen/dining, relaxation/storage. Power will come from solar panels. Aside from that, the windows will be replaced with sheets of steel. Now I could buy steel plate and bolt it on as the windows were originally or see if I can simply replace the glass in the windows with steel. Then insulate the heck out of it and add doors to each section in order to maintain warmth in winter.

Water will be contained in 5 gallon jerry cans. The shower will feed out of one of them via an instant hot water heater. Waste water will drain into a tank below the bus that's already in place. As the bus has no toilet, to save on water an earth-closet style chemical toilet will be used.

The only other modification will be to replace the concertina bus-style door with a coach-style pivoting door for security. And of course, the bus will be repainted to suit my style and personality. Interior decor will match exterior decor.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Portable Chicken Ranch

A few days ago I saw an interesting delivery van to motor home conversion. The price of $3500 was high and it was a bit small. It was notable for the stripper pole in the middle. Utterly bizarre but maybe this was a lads waggon or a mobile chicken ranch.

Friday, October 3, 2014

What? Are you NUTS????

This is the question many of my friends asked when I first mentioned moving into a school bus as a place to live.

It didn't start out like that though. I'd heard somebody was wanting to interview me for a position in Charlotte, North Carolina. As it was a temporary position, I figured I'd maybe get a camper (caravan) or a motor home of some sort.

Investigations revealed that campers (caravans) second hand are a pretty dodgy proposition and at the price I wanted to pay $3K were just scrap on wheels. Similarly any of the motorhomes at the same kind of price range are scrap on wheels.

Scouring Craigslist came up with a whole load of dodgy-looking propositions. Indeed I want to have a look at one but turned around before I got there because the area was seriously dodgy. Once I see bars over windows, I know it's not an area that I want to be around.

A site in New York was selling used busses in great condition for $4,000 but wanted $1,800 to deliver. Going up to collect it would have been $400 on a flight plus local accommodation plus 1,000 miles of driving at 8mpg and $3.75 per gallon.

I've looked long and hard at what's available and even been inside a 25 foot motorhome. That was nice enough but at $15K was ludicrously expensive. At that kind of price I'd be better off paying rent and just moving house every now and again.

I went through all the options - converting a box trailer into a camper, buying a ready made camper, buying a motor home, buying a bus and converting it etc. The problems seem to be...
  • Motorhomes are either cheap and badly broken or they're too expensive.
  • Box trailer - very good idea but my Xterra can't pull them as they're too heavy. I'm not about to give up my Xterra either.
  • Camper - the economical ones are badly broken and the expensive ones are too expensive. Again, I get the towing problem.
  • Most motorhomes can't pull my Xterra since it has to go on a trailer.
Problems abound. Then I heard about school busses. Now that sounds much more promising. Thus I've been hunting school busses. The problems don't end there though. As with the motor homes, the suspiciously cheap busses are to be avoided. The whole thing seems fraught. The cheapest prices are on Craigslist and the most expensive on eBay.

Google streetview has become a wonderful asset. Several busses that have been already turned into motorhomes have been featured on Craigslist and checking the address on Google satellite view and street view has shown that they've been used as chicken coops and a whole load of other things. Basically a total lack of care which means I'd get all the problems.

Facebook has had a few trailers and motorhomes on offer. Usually they come with the alert "no title" which means that like as not they're stolen property. No title is not worth the risk to me.

The actual conversion from a bus to a home is not that hard nor that expensive. Indeed there's one on offer that has been pretty much converted. All that needs to be done is to add some much-needed insulation. That was a Craigslist advert though so we'll see if it was genuine. From experience of Craigslist adverts, it's always best to be prepared for the worst.

Youtube has been my inspiration for conversions of school busses into motorhomes. There's just so much information there that it's just been a wonderful asset. My own conversion is going to follow the lines of several conversions but in my own unique way.

Rather than replacing the windows that I don't need, I'll simply paint over them. Paint is cheap. The bus will be insulated and partitioned. There will not be any air conditioning other than fans and windows. It's too hard on battery power. There will be solar panels providing power to deep cycle batteries and there will be an inverter supplying power to various electrical appliances that need 110v - for example the microwave, the fridge, the kettle, steamer, slow cooker etc. Lighting will be 12v LED. The toilet will be a version of an earth closet in order that less water need be carried and used. The shower will have an electric pump and electric heater. Water will be supplied from portable 20 gallon jerry cans that can be easily replaced. Waste water will go into a drum under the bus or onto the ground since it's not going to be polluted water.

Somebody reckoned you can sell bus seats. I've seen them on Craigslist for $60, $40 and $20 which indicates to me that they're probably not resalable. More than likely just something to have to take to the dump or advertise on freecycle.

Anyway, it's all ideas right now until I have a physical bus in my hands. I did check on licensing and apparently under SC rules, I can drive anything as long as it's not for profit. Now that's useful. The plan will be to get an A license at some point so that I can drive to some of the more interesting places to take photos.